Arts Q&A: Marie Jones on Four Men and a Dog, David Mitchell and Irish rugby

Jenny Lee puts performers and artists on the spot about what really matters to them. This week, Belfast playwright Marie Jones

Belfast playwright Marie Jones

1. When did you think about a career in theatre and what were your first steps into it?

The truth is I never thought it possible to have a career in it. I just wanted to be doing it. I started in the Group Theatre with Jimmy Young in 1968 and actually got paid two quid a week. After that it was to get as much experience doing it wherever whenever.

2. Best gigs you’ve been to?

I presented a programme on the Sligo Fleadh in the early 90s. That was my first experience of Irish music. From thinking it was the same tune over and over again, I was immediately converted. It was there I first heard the phenomenal traditional band Four Men and a Dog, who had just formed. Cathal Hayden has got to be the best fiddle player in the land.

3. Fantasy wedding/birthday party band?

Four Men and a Dog – they are the best.

4. The record you’d take to a desert island?

Bob Marley's Three Little Birds. When you are worried about something, just whack on Bob and he’ll tell you "don’t worry about a thing". Easy said for Bob, but it works for me

5. And the book?

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell. It's a book you could open at any page and the writing is so colourful and descriptive it just puts you right there on that small remote island in Japan. It would be apt given I’d already be on one.

6. Top three films?

Dog Day Afternoon – I am convinced the best part of that script was improvised, which would have been quite progressive for a 1970s movie.

August: Osage County is an American comedy-drama film and based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning play. It's a family drama and the dialogue is so real. Could be any family anywhere – could be yours.

Flawless – Walt (Robert De Nero) is a retired cop who has a stroke. As therapy he is advised to take singing lessons from drag queen Rusty (Phillip Seymour Hoffman). Amazing performances and plot.

7. Worst film you’ve seen?

Suntan. This was a filmed on the island in Greece where we have a holiday home. This film was so badly made, acted and scripted, with a ridiculous plot. The only saving grace, they used the locals for some of the parts and that caused great hilarity on the island.

8. Favourite authors?

I don’t have favourite author, because you could read one book by an author and love it and the next you might not like at all. For example, David Mitchell's Jacob De Zeot, and yet I could not get into Cloud Atlas. I have just read The Doll Factory. It's the story of a young woman who aspires to be and artist and the man whose obsession with her could destroy her. It's an intoxicating read.

9. Sports you most enjoy and top teams

I am a big Northern Ireland Football fan and had an amazing time following the Green White Army to France for the Euros. I also follow the Ireland rugby team and am off to Japan for the World Cup.

10. Ideal holiday destination?

On our little island in Antiparos. It just the best crack but beware not much to do there but read eat drink and swim in the Aegean Sea.

11. Pet hate?

Wire coat hangers. Trying to stack them and put them in a black plastic bag for the laundry is one nightmare.

12. What’s your favourite:

Dinner? An Ulster Fry. If I was on death row that would be my last request. No debate.

Dessert? Eton Mess. might have been invented by a past prime minister. Still class.

Drink? Vodka and paracodal, but not together. The latter is a result of the former.

13. Who is your best friend and how do you know each other?

Colette Lynch. We met through this business over 30 years ago. We have travelled to many parts of the world and laughed our way up the Amazon in a dugout canoe, sat on two plastic deckchairs. We both survived and love Bob Marley.

14. Is there a God?

I go with Pascal's wager – If the existence of God can't be proved, what harm will come to you if you believe in him? If it proves false and he does exist, you gain and you're up there.

:: The Miami Showband Story, written by Marie Jones and Martin Lynch, takes audiences through the dancehall glory days of the 1960s to the tragedy that befell the band in 1975. The musical will be performed in Belfast's Grand Opera House from August 8 to 17 (tickets from, then touring throughout Ireland. For more info see

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